A person himself believes that all the other portraits are good likenesses except the one of himself.  -Edvard Munch 

I love drawing people. It is the scariest act for an artist. Actors talk at great length about stage fright, but generally they have their lines memorized before they take the stage. They need but merely pantomime and utter their words and at least a cogent performance will wrought. Even those who give speeches have butterflies in their stomach, frogs in their throats, and perhaps a rock in their gut—but they still have cue cards and teleprompters.

The only person who understands what it is to be a portraitist is the improvisational actor. Notice I said actor…not troupe. You are all by yourself up on that pedestal, and as such, you are so easily knocked off. The high wire artist knows some fear, but least it is the same wire, the same unicycle, and the same trick every night.

Everyone’s face is different. Their wrinkles show their character. Ridges that draw down around the mouth prove a frown has lived there. Furrows around the brow—gives witness that eyebrows have been raised in delight and interest. Groves along the cheeks makes plain the tracks of a thousand laughs that have broken, and a million smiles that have beamed.

You can read a person by their face. “Sorrow is better than laughter, for when the face is sad, the heart may be happy.” The question then is as a portraitist, can I capture their likeness, but their spirit, their experience, and their character.

All this without a net.

It used to be very intimidating to draw people’s portraits while they sat before me, but now I would prefer it no other way. Yesterday I had the good fortune to meet two young men cycling down the coast. Where they were headed…they weren’t even sure. Julian is a young man that jumped on his $15 dollar bicycle and headed across Canada from Quebec. The uneven growth of a first beard belied his youth, sincerity, and innocence. I’ve met so few people that smile all the time, even when deep in contemplation, a smile was ever present upon Julian’s countenance.

Mr. Chung, his companion was from Portland, Oregon. I call him Mr. Chung because he un-waveringly called me Sir. Mr. Chung is on his second wandering trek. His last one ended as he was found him sleeping up a tree in Texas. Discovered there by a cheerleader (no I’m not making this up) he became gainfully employed as a Tae Kwon Do sensei for three years. His wanderlust returned, and he returned to his old master and dojo in Oregon. There he trained, and at the age of 21 became the state and national champion in sparing. He then placed second at the world championships. Now he is on a $5 bike held together with silver duct tape and happiness touring the world again.

Thrown together by chance this odd couple has been traveling down the Oregon coast on a road bound for destiny and delight. I was honored to draw their pictures and give them hugs. As they passed me by along the highway we both weave, they yelled, “WE love you Peace Artist!” And I felt their love…and it buoyed me on.

I asked Mr. Chung his thoughts on peace, martial arts, and love. Few have I met that are more in tune with their body, spirit, and craft than are gymnasts and martial artists, Mr. Chung was no different. Before leaving on our separate and yet collective journeys, Chung imparted to me his life’s motto, “Now that you are your own perfect master, choose love and be free.”

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